Going back to work: how to make returning a successful transition

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  • Going back to work after time away can be a daunting experience. Whether you’re two months out of a job, two years or two decades, the nerves, anticipation and anxiety related with the move to return can be overwhelming. But you’re not alone. These feelings are totally normal. Going back to work can also be an incredibly exciting time, signalling change and a new chapter in your life.

    Here, our panel of experts share their advice and pool their years of experience to offer their top tips on going back to work, and how to make returning a successful – and hopefully enjoyable and exciting – transition.

    Remind yourself of your strengths

    Roxanne Hobbs, founder of The Hobbs Consultancy says, “Work through what has changed about you whilst you have been away – and how this can positively impact your approach when you return.”

    “It is easy to feel a confidence dip after being out of the workplace for a while – you can remind yourself of these strengths before heading back in. Remember that the time out of the office has also been a time for personal growth. Many people report coming back with a different sense of perspective and a new found patience!”

    Shola Kaye, professional public speaker and confidence coach, agrees, “Before you go back to work, make a list of all the skills and talents you bring to the job. Also, list your accomplishments from your non-work activities. This will bolster your confidence and help you recognize your many assets.”

    Do your homework

    If you’re worried about how to make a good impression with your new bosses when you return to work, Shola Kaye has some helpful tips:

    “One way to make a decent impression is by doing a little research before that first day. Is there someone who can brief you on your new co-workers and work environment? Try to get a good knowledge of the company culture and the individuals who manage you, or whom you might be managing.”

    Practice makes perfect

    While studying up about your company or practicing for those first week meetings is a great way to make sure you’re prepared for going back to work, don’t forget about practicing the transition from your home-life perspective too. If you’re returning to work after having children and they are still little, this may include making sure your childcare is sorted and that you’re totally happy with the new arrangement. Roxanne Hobbs recommends, “leave plenty of time before your return to work to start that transition – doing settling in days at nursery for example.”

    In addition, Roxanne also suggests, “Practice leaving other people with the baby – perhaps even take a night away”

    “Plan in advance with your partner how you are going to tackle any child illnesses, that will inevitably arise.”

    Don’t forget why you’re going back to work

    Shola Kaye shares her advice and personal experience on going back to work:

    “One way to get the right mindset for going back to work is to be fully reconciled with your reasons for this change in your life. Maybe you can’t wait to get back into the workplace or, on the other hand, maybe you’re going back for financial reasons and would rather not have to. A few years back I had to work in a job that I particularly disliked. To make matters easier I made a list of my values in life and noted which ones were fulfilled by that job. Some of the boxes it ticked included: variety – no two days were alike; comfort – themmoney was of course useful and helped keep a roof over my head; and travel – the job involved a degree of travel around the UK. This awareness will help you maintain an attitude of gratitude and in turn will make things much easier, whether or not you’re happy to be going back into employment!”


    Communication is key

    Communicating clearly with your new manager and those around you at work is going to be key to making your return to work a success. Ruth Kudzi, a qualified Success Coach and mum-of-two says, “make sure you are clear on the expectations for the role and know where you can go to get help. Be honest if you are finding things difficult as people will want to support you.”

    If you’re returning to the place you used to work Ruth adds, “if you are returning to an old organisation arrange a coffee or lunch with some of your old colleagues.”

    Beat those first day nerves

    The first day back at work is always the most daunting. Embracing change and your new routine isn’t always as easy as it sounds, but there are ways to keep calm and sail through that first day back in the office. Roxanne Hobbs advises to using breathing techniques to keep those jitters in check if you start to feel overwhelmed. “I always hold my breath when I get nervous, so my advice is to make sure you breathe! I use tactical breathing (or box breathing) when I need to get present. You breathe in for four, hold for four, out for four and then hold for four again – then repeat three times.”

    In addition, Ruth Kudzi suggests planning something you love or will look forward to for that first week back, “Think about ways that you can reward yourself when you finish the day – do something that you enjoy to unwind.”

    Dress to impress

    Roxanne Hobbs recommends, “Treat yourself to a new outfit – I believe your confidence can be impacted by what you wear, so invest some time and money on choosing something you feel really great in.”


    Don’t compare yourself to others

    Roxanne Hobbs urges us us not to forget, “Remember that all women are different. Some women sail back in to work and some people find the first day paralyzing. Either experience is absolutely normal and fine.”

    It’s also important to try and avoid comparing yourself to your colleagues. Everyone will have had a different career path and a different journey to get to this professional stage in their lives – including you! We all have different focuses and priorities, so don’t let other people’s working patterns or attitudes impact on your if you can avoid it.

    “Be unapologetic – they’re lucky to have you there.” Roxanne says. “Avoid going in and apologising for your absence or for having to leave at a set time. People will pick up on this and be questioning of your time, if you yourself are questioning of it.”

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